A Slice of Fried Gold

European Adventures: France

Monday, July 6, 2009

Alright, round 2 of my European travelogues continue. This time? France!

France was a surprise to me, as I was essentially goaded into going there by my friend Rebekah, and it ended up being my favorite part of the trip. It was there that met the most (and best) people, where I most loved the culture, where the sights were perpetually impressive, and where I completely fell in love with a city. Paris, je t'aime. It is completely and utterly the greatest place I've ever been, and if somewhere tops it I will be completely shocked.

My adventures here took place from April 16th to April 21st, 2009.

Hey Hermano on their stop in Paris

Cities/areas visited: Paris, Bayeux, Omaha Beach

Soundtrack: Beirut (particularly the Flying Club Cup, but all albums really), M83's Saturdays = Youth, Yann Tiersen's soundtrack to Amelie, Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong performing "La Vie en Rose," M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes."

Jesse, Canadian of unknown name, and Nicki in front of the Great Canadian

Best Non-France Country: Canada

This is going to be a lengthy section, so bare with me.

On my third morning in Paris, I was coming upstairs after breakfast in my hostel in the elevator with a group of people. One of them was a girl who had an armful of food, including some Nutella and crackers of some variety. Predictably, given the fact I am way too nosy for my own good, I started conversation with her:

Me: So can I have any of that food?
Her: Oh, of course.
Me: What are you some sort of hobo or something?
Her: (laughs) Nah, it's my friends food and he asked me to take it up for him.
Me: (Elevator opens) Alright then...well, see ya around Hobo Girl!

This of course happened with all of the other elevator patrons thinks we were rather odd. I then prepared for my day, which on a rainy day in Paris consisted of the Louvre and an attempted journey to the Catacombs. As I negotiated my way to the Catacombs, I saw a place with an enormous line an realized that this might be a bad idea. I go up to the back of it and asked the people in the back if they spoke English, to which they said yes and asked me if I was here for the Catacombs. They then let me know that it was closing in 30 minutes and (quite obviously) that there was an enormous line. I then noticed that one of them was the girl from the elevator, and I excitedly said "Hobo girl!" to which she laughed and her friends responded with shrugs.

After that point (well, to be fair, it was really later that evening), the three Canadians in the line (Hobo Girl was Nicki, and the other two were Tom and Jesse) and myself were pretty much inseperable. Interestingly enough, the three of them had only recently met as well, as Nicki was on holiday traveling around Europe when she met Jesse on the ferry from England to France, who was on the run from life (Cliffs notes version: Jesse was involved with a woman at home who was common law married to a man who was incredibly violent, a man who lived right down the street from him and now had reason to kill him. In pursuit of survival, Jesse hid in his basement for four months and then fled to Europe. True story.) when he met Tom as he was coming in to Paris. So strangely, us four perfect strangers met up and had one of my favorite stretches of life I've ever had in the best city I've ever been in.

It's hard to tell whether or not it was the city or the people that made the experience so amazing, but one way or another I know Canadians are freaking spectacular.

Eiffel Tower

Best Sight (Paris Edition): Eiffel Tower

So you know when you see one of the all-time great sights and you're underwhelmed (i.e. Stonehenge)? Sometimes, it's quite hard for these places to live up to the hype that you have been building up for them all of your life.

The Eiffel Tower on the other hand is everything I thought it could be and more, even with thousands upon thousands people visiting it simultaneously. The sheer size of it was completely astounding, as even the bases were bigger than what I thought the entirety of it would be. It was shockingly huge, and completely and utterly spectacular. Reason to go to Paris in itself.

Normandy American Cemetary

Best Sight (Non-Paris Edition): Normandy American Cemetary

While I loved everything else I saw on my trip, there was something more powerful, historic, and moving about the Normandy American Cemetary. To see the thousands of graves is absolutely haunting. Even more intense is to walk around Omaha Beach itself and imagine what the thousands of soldiers themselves saw as they tried to get a foothold back on the mainland of Europe. It was quite the odd thing to be walking around on this incredibly historic location (with new found and incredibly awesome friends Daisy and Alberto, whom I met on a taxi ride over and were travelers from Miami) where thousands of people died, yet realizing it was a completely and utterly beautiful location.

It made me not want to smile and enjoy myself, but it was an incredibly breathtaking experience.

French McDonalds

Best Sight (Pulp Fiction Edition): French McDonalds

Given that I was in France and that I quite like Pulp Fiction, I had to stop by a McDonalds to check out their menu to see whether or not Quentin Tarantino (by way of Vincent Vega) was accurate in his statements about the menu. True to form, it was completely and utterly accurate. I can tell you one thing, the Royale with Cheese is not as good as the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Sorry France.

Lorraine, Tom, myself, Nicki, guy who I don't remember, and Jesse in front of the Moulin Rouge

Best Sight (Moulin Rouge Edition): Moulin Rouge

Given that I was in Paris and I freaking love Moulin Rouge!, I had to go to Montmartre and to the Moulin Rouge. I checked it out during day and night, and while it was cool to see it was a little less majestic than I was hoping for. I'm sure it would have been cool to see an actual show (and the spectacular courtesans), but man, talk about expensive. The cheapest spot in the house was 100 Euros! Crazy freaking expensive! Still, it was fun to be outside of it when a show ended and a fleet of miniature horses came out. Made me wonder what sort of illicit events they were involved with before hand, but not to shell out a crazy sum of money.

Cafe des Deux Moulins

Best Sight (Non-Pulp Fiction/Moulin Rouge Movie Edition): The cafe from Amelie

Given that I am quite fond of the film Amelie and that it takes place entirely in Paris, I had to search out whatever monuments I could remember. Really, the only one I could come up with was actually searching out the Cafe des Deux Moulins, which is the restaurant Amelie worked at in the film (if only I made it to Sacre Couer...I'll have to hit that on round two). I managed to take a picture with the gnome from the movie and get the experience of a major part of the movie after they had closed (as they let us in anyways because we were drunken idiots in love with the idea of checking out part of Amelie history).

This picture may make me a bad person

Creepiest sight (yet still cool! Edition): The Catacombs

The last major sight I saw before I left Paris was my second attempt at seeing the Catacombs with Jesse and Nicki, with this time being a success (barely, we were nearly the last ones in). The Catacombs were the result of Paris' cemetaries essentially overflowing with dead and then causing disease because of improper burial. If I remember correctly, there are roughly 9 million people worth of bones hundreds of feet underneath the city, and it is just an astonishing sight. Rows upon rows of bones all over this place, deep in the heart of Paris.

"I really like the way my sheer, skin tight black suit makes my body look"

Creepiest sight (Oh my god, are you a real person Edition): Roaming woman in skin tight black body suit

The day after I met the Canadians and the day I was supposed to leave Paris (the first time) we went on a free walking tour of the city checking out all of the sights with an awesome English speaking tour guide (highly recommended if you get a chance, they're through a group called "New Europe"), and while we were out and about near the Louvre, we ran into one of the most bizarre people I've seen in my entire life.

There was a woman ambling around in a garden in a sheer, skin tight black suit, seemingly traveling by feeling the energy around her (actually taking her hands and waving them about before she moved forward) and looking confused (or as confused as you can look while wearing a black full body suit) as people tried to photograph her. This pretty much killed Jesse, Tom and I, who were completely and utterly enraptured by her every move. She was totally ace, and I miss her dearly.

Francoise on the train from Paris to Caen

Best Person: Francoise

While on the train from Paris to Bayeux, I quickly realized I had no freaking idea how the European railway system worked. As I went from seat to seat, speedily evicted by strangers who were flustered with the person who had stolen their seat, I started to panic. Finally, I settled on sitting in between cars near the bathroom, and I settled in next to a young French man named Francoise. Francoise was on the way back to home in Caen from Northern France, and he was on a special mission.

He was off visiting family to create a special gift for the woman he loved (whom he had only met four times but he was sure of his love), and it was a silk scarf with a dove stitched on it with the woman's name written below. It was incredibly beautiful and quite the gesture, but the fact he did it blew my mind. It was incredibly romantic, and this was a guy who knew four languages and was an engineer. I had honestly never met a person like him before, and I doubt I ever will. Quite the unique individual, as if he stepped out of a movie and then met me. I hope your gift was received well Francoise. I feel as if it turned out well for you.

Note: His book

Most stereotypical French person: See picture

The stereotype is that French people hate Americans. That was most definitely not the case from what I experienced, as every person I met was absolutely delightful (besides the French gangsters who wanted to murder Jesse, Nicki, and I and the guy who threw soda on Jesse and Lorraine), but this guy was a complete stereotype. I mean come on, look at that book. Hilarious.

The girls and I

Most disconcerting French person(s): The girls in the picture

While we were off at a Pub Crawl, a trio of cute locals started following around our entire group. I went up to the group and introduced myself, and one seemed particularly interested. We separated from the group and started talking.

Me: So what do you girls do?
Girl: Oh, we're in school.
Me: Oh yeah? What university?
Girl: (laughs) We're still in high school!

Needless to say, that was enough of that. It was pretty freaking funny though.

Parisian, Andy, myself, Parisian - all on the Metro

Best mode of transportation: the Metro

Before Europe, the only real mass transportation system I experienced was the Max system in Portland. It's a great deal, but perhaps a bit limited by the fact it only really goes into a few specific parts of the city. Now the Tube in London (forgot about it in the London write up) and the Metro in Paris are insanely robust systems that provide you access to both cities with just a few jumps from train to train. While walking around was the more fun way to do it, it was thrilling to be able to access everywhere quickly for just half a Euro, and it was a great way to see very interesting people and surprisingly great musical performers. It's the only way to travel.

It felt twice as dangerous as it looks

Best excuse to miss a flight ever: Running across the Place de l'√Čtoile

The day I was supposed to leave Paris for Prague, the Canadians and I went on a free walking tour of the city. It culminated in an area somewhat close to the Arc de Triomphe and the famed Place de l'√Čtoile, which is a junction where 12 different avenues converge. The Canadians had already run across it, and because of my induction into their group as a honorary Canadian, it was my responsibility to run across it. And I did at quite possibly the worst moment ever, as I was nearly turned into roadkill, but that made it all the more fun.

Of course, doing so made me almost late to my plane, and ultimately due to Air France's incompetency I missed my plane to Prague. Then there was a whole ordeal with getting on another plane, but one way or another, I ended up staying in Paris for longer than I originally had planned.

It was the best thing that could have happened, and I'm glad I almost got killed for that reason.

Crazy delicious and expensive steak

Best Food: Super expensive dinner evening before I left

One of my favorite days was one where the Canadians, our friend Lorraine, and I ran around Paris all day and it all culminated in a quite spendy (400 Euro) and ridiculously tasty dinner. I should have realized that the person who told me French cuisine was overrated was a liar, as the Canadians chastised me when I suggested that idea, and then when I had this dinner my mind was blown. My courses were:

-Filthy delicious steak with tasty potatoes
-Tarte Tintin (essentially a fruit pie that you cover in the most delicious cream cheese ever made)
-Tons of wine!!!

I would never have made it to this if I hadn't missed my flight, but this made it worth missing Prague singlehandedly. It was Tom's favorite restaurant ever when he went there when he was little and we searched for it for seemingly an eternity, but we found it and it was totally worth it.

View of the Greek Sculptures section of the Richelieu wing

Best Part of the Louvre: Greek sculptures in the Richelieu wing

While the biggest crowds are over in the Denon wing checking out the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, the first (and best) place I went was the Greek sculptures section of the Richelieu wing. While the other sections are utterly packed and (honestly) packed with overrated works, these Greek sculptures do not have the reputation but all of the beauty and class, without the elbow to elbow experience. Just an utterly beautiful and peaceful experience.

All of these people are taking pictures of the tiny Mona Lisa

Worst Part of the Louvre: Mona Lisa

Sure, sure, it's a great painting. But the Mona Lisa is freaking tiny, you've seen it roughly infinity times, and the crowds around it are insane. I could make it to the front, but you have to pass rows of people at least ten deep. In comparison to the quiet beauty of the Greek sculptures in the Richelieu wing, this does basically nothing for me besides amuse me with the insanity of people.

In this picture: Tom, Ana, Jersey, and Carla

Best night life option for young, party minded Americans (like me!): Parisian Pub Crawl!

The first day I arrived in Paris, one of my hostelmates suggested we go on a pub crawl across the city as put on by New Europe (the same people who put on the free walking tour we went on). It was 20 Euro (was it 20? My mind fades daily...) to go along with the group, and you get free entrance to all of the bars, discounted rates for drinks, and shots inbetween bars. Great deal in itself, but it also allows you to meet other young travelers in the most open situation possible...while intoxicated!

I ended up going twice, and both times I went were just completely ridiculous nights. Full of debauchery, drinking, dance contests, and all kinds of other fantastic "d" words, I met an insane amount of people and realized that my special type of drunk persona (at work, I'd be called an "expressive expressive") translates well across all languages. For example, on the first run at the dance club we went to, I managed to befriend the owner of the bar and his friends, which was peculiar in the fact that they didn't speak a word of English and I didn't speak French. We just knew cool people to hang out with when we saw them. Plus, I got to curate a dance party and showed them how to party...Alaska style.

Nicki, Jesse (the guy puking), and myself in St. Christopher's bathroom

Most memorable night: Fancy dinner and danger in Montmartre

So this night started with the dinner, which was great of course. Afterwards, Jesse, Tom, Nicki, Lorraine, Giancarlo, and myself went back to the hostel and as I figured out how to get the heck out of dodge (or Paris, as it may be) everyone else formulated the plan of attack for the evening. Essentially, we were going to roll up to Montmartre and then check out Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge before getting trapped without metro return options as we wanted to also make it to the Eiffel Tower.

Or rather, that's how it was supposed to go.

What ended up happening, amidst our varying levels of drunkeness, was significantly different.

After significant amounts of drink and random frustrating situations, Jesse went dark side on us. Just insanely drunk. To better survive the evening, we split up and Nicki and I were on "get Jesse home without killing us all" duty. Which is an interesting role as it turns out, as it pretty dangerous when you get down to it.

It reminded me of a video game, as it seemed every block brought us a new "boss fight," all culminating in a truly terrifying showdown before magicking our way back to the hostel. Here's how it went down:

-Rematch against a drunk guy who threw a soda on Jesse and Lorraine earlier, as Jesse managed to completely and utterly dominate him a "drunk off." Thankfully, I managed to keep Jesse back while Tom warded off the drunk before leaving.

-Jesse falls in love with a tree, decides that he must stay with it for the evening, drawing the ire of Nicki and I. "Just leave me here with this tree, it's what I deserve!" Jesse says, to which Nicki responds with "Well what about your camera? Someone is going to steal your camera?!" Combining threatening comments about his camera with pulling him vigorously equals on to boss 3.

-Next was little Cape Town, but you can read about that below. The point is, it was Jesse with a pack of less drunk but incredibly amazed South Africans.

-Jesse develops the need to pee (unsurprisingly given the amount of drink consumed), and begins peeing on one of his former loves (aka...a tree). Nicki and I walk on ahead a bit to avoid seeing Jesse parts, to which he evidently assumes means we're leaving him. Without zipping up or stopping peeing, he spins and yells "I'm coming for you!" (he claims he said "wait up, I'm coming!" - shenanigans) and starts running after us with his junk hanging out and still peeing. The two of quickly realize what is happening, split up and run to both sides as Jesse is spraying like crazy and we're dodging like running backs avoiding linebackers (except we're not running to contact, thankfully). Strangely enough, our response is to laugh hysterically for the next ten minutes.

-Next few blocks were Jesse yelling at scary looking strangers and me taking him out. Sadly it did not work out.

-We walk by a group of rather scary looking Parisian gangster looking types, and they say something to Jesse so he predictably yells "F*** you! F*** you!" after which I speed up, start dragging Jesse, and tell Nicki to book it. Why? Turns out Parisian gangster types hate people yelling at them, and decided to start following us. After five or six blocks of hysteria/fear (possibly triggered by me), we found a cab and went back to the hostel.

-Jesse vomits 21 times, in front of all the hostel employees at the entrance (he even fell into it face first), in the hostel restroom on the bottom floor, and then 19 times in the bathroom next to his room. Which was strangely hysterical for us, if only because it was an insane amount of vomiting and we got to take rad self pics in front of it. Plus, it was a somewhat predictable ending to a strangely unpredictable and bizarrely fun night.


Weirdest bathroom fixture: This just feels wrong

I've went to the bathroom in a lot of places (as everyone has), but I tend to notice a lot of details that others don't. You could even argue that I appreciate them in a very unique way. It's part of what makes me so special.

But this was just weird. I don't know if the implication was giving a person a golden shower styled sensation, but this just felt wrong.


Worst bathroom: This one!

This bathroom in Montmartre was probably the filthiest bathroom that has ever existed. It was one of the few free bathrooms around, and as you can see you get what you pay for. Just absolutely horrendous, but while drunk it is massively entertaining and not quite as bothersome.


Best Canadian Ambassador to South Africa: Jesse Adams

On the infamous trek through Montmartre, Jesse made some friends. In the midst of the insanity going on that night, there was a small band of South Africans on holiday (seen in photo above), and to say they were an interesting bunch is quite the understatement. For example, their leader (the guy in the green shirt who was probably 16) was probably the most intimidating person I've ever met. He may not look that intense, but the way he bossed the group around was incredibly intense. Thankfully they all thought Jesse was the funniest person ever because he was so tanked (even though he kept yelling "Johannesburg!" instead of "Cape Town!" which is where they are from). One of the best sections of an awesome and crazy night.

Nicki and I out on the town

France Wrap Up: So why was my time in Paris the best part of my trip? Well there are a number of reasons, but ultimately it gets down to the fact I saw my favorite sights, experienced the best food and drink, had the most fun living arrangements (seriously, St. Christopher's Paris rules), and met the most amazing people. It seemed like every day I was meeting someone new and spectacular. Somewhat facetiously, I'm already pursuing a dream of learning French over the next year and moving to Paris in a year.

It was the most romantic place I've ever been, as it seemed like everything I experienced felt a little bit like love. Leaving Paris was amazingly enough harder to do than leaving Europe, and I still think about it almost daily. I want to go back, as I never wanted to leave. Really, there is no way this post will do it justice. To accurately represent its greatness, I would have to write a book. A really freaking long book. Its title would be "Paris: the Greatest Place on the Planet." Or maybe not. That's definitely a working title.

Creepy skulls in the Catacombs

Nicki: "Get up Jesse!" Jesse: "Leave me here! Leave me here with my tree!"

Myself and Nicki on the Metro right before I left

In Cafe des Deux Moulins

Arc de Triomphe

Nicki staring out at Place de la Concorde


Jesse, myself, and Tom on the way back in after a long, long night

Tom getting a piggy back ride from Ana

Jesse, Jersey, Tom, Ana, Carla and myself at the end of the night

Tom, Jesse, me, and Carla at Club Six Seven

Jersey, Tom, creepster joining the pic, and Ana

The coutryard in the Louvre

Hermes sculpture in the Louvre

The girl from Portugal

Myself staring out at Omaha Beach

Myself, Daisy, and Alberto on Omaha Beach

Alberto staring up at a map of the Allies travels in WWII

Part of the Normandy American Cemetary

Myself, the bouncer, and my two friends from Seattle

Shana, myself, and Kaitlyn

These girls were Florida Gators and got this guy (John Mayer to them) to do the Gator chomp

View under the Eiffel Tower

Awesome guy fishing in the Seine


Patty said...

Looks like ONE big party.

ahmed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ahmed said...

I have visted this site and got lots of information than that of i visited before a month.

work from home

ahmed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Post a Comment